Saving PDP from perpetual state of crisis
• We’re not in crisis – Party Chieftains
• Party needs genuine reconciliation to rebound, says George
Before the general elections held earlier in the year, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was beset by a number of crises, both at the state and national levels. With the elections over, the party has remained in that state of perpetual crisis, fuelling fears that it may likely not be able to play the role of a vibrant opposition under the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu-led administration.
There are strong indications that several members of the party are now merely waiting for the outcome of the ongoing Presidential Election Petition Tribunal to see whether the presidential candidate of the party, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar will be declared winner by the court.
Anything short of that, many of the party’s stakeholders may either relapse politically or start defecting to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). And President Tinubu, who is also a very ‘deep and intense’ politician, who has over the years mastered the politics of depleting opposition ranks, will not rest on his oars in further weakening the party.
Three major issues have continued to keep the party apart even before the last general polls, which are challenges of zoning, ethnicity and problem of national chairmanship.
The party, from the way it was defeated and thrown out of power in 2015, has not been able to address the real cause of its loss to APC. Before the 2023 general elections, Atiku and his loyalists were almost sure that PDP would win. That confidence alone made some stakeholders within to disregard the yearning of the South, especially Southwest, which continued to agitate that the North cannot produce the presidential candidate and at the same time the national chairman.
The party became extremely arrogant to some of their other critical stakeholders. Some Atiku’s loyalists even boasted to deal with those who do not agree with them on certain issues. That show of power, among other issues, pitted the party against the G-5 governors, headed by the immediate past governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike. The party is still reeling from the effects of that face-off, as nothing concrete has been done to calm frayed nerves.
The presidential candidate, Atiku, who perhaps is regarded as the most senior and highest ranking member of PDP, is yet to address the fundamental challenges facing the party. Infact, Atiku still believes that PDP won the poll and appears not too keen on reconciling the warring members.
Of course, the faction clamouring for equity and balance in the party had been doing everything possible to fight for their political survival, not just in the PDP but in the polity generally.
For instance, the likes of Wike, Governor Seyi Makinde and former Deputy National Chairman of PDP, Olabode George and a host of others, obviously worked against the interest of their party.
Recall that Chief George seriously warned the PDP against the arrogance of throwing the entire Southwest away ahead of the elections.
There were also the elements of ethnic and religious issues within the party. These also played a serious role in keeping the party apart, especially in discussions around zoning and where the presidency would go between the north and south? It is that ethnicity problem that made some people like the former Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal withdraw for Atiku at the last minute during the party’s presidential primary held in Abuja. This was to ensure that the presidential ticket remained in the North as against the position of the South.
Some key Northern elements maintain that the presidency must not be relinquished to the South. This also played a role and it is still playing out in the sense that when the immediate past National Chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu was removed by a court order, the party went ahead to pick another acting National Chairman, Umar Damagum, from the north. This is also causing some frayed nerves among members of the party.
With the appointment of Damagum, who is also a Fulani man, the issue of appointing or electing a substantive national chairman cannot come up at all for now because the immediate past National Chairman, Iyochia Ayu, is also still in court to challenge the unceremonious manner in which he was removed.
Some observers said even if the courts deliver a judgment against him Ayu, the party will still have to come back to know how it will elect a substantive national chairman and the issue of zoning adding that the only time the problems in the party could be resolved is when the court cases are resolved. Even if the National chairmanship issue is eventually resolved, the party will now return to the drawing board to plan itself.
Without doubt, with the developments surrounding the party, it may not really have the time to play a stronger opposition unlike those days when it was in power and we had a very strong opposition Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), which later transformed to APC.
There are other minor, but strong opposition parties, ironically the smaller parties, like Labour Party (LP), NNPP and others around today are not even trusting the PDP to represent their interests. This indicates that the challenges facing the PDP would always be to the advantage of APC.
However, a chieftain of PDP in Lagos, Dr. Adetokunbo Pearse disagreed that PDP is in perpetual crisis. According to him, “When a party is not in power, you are definitely destabilised. I will agree that from the national headquarters, the party is not working hard enough as an opposition party and the bulk of the problems are with the National Publicity Secretary. PDP is not in crisis. I was invited to the meeting of the National Working Committee (NWC) about two weeks ago where we ironed out all our problems and came to the conclusion that the party messed up in the last election.”
He continued: “Atiku got the presidential ticket for 2023 election but the former vice president never really funded the party. Since 2015, the former vice president didn’t fund the party and that gave room for people like Wike to step in and start playing leadership role because of their financial capacity.
“Our challenges started from 2015 when former President Goodluck Jonathan lost the election to erstwhile President Muhammadu Buhari of APC. Once Jonathan lost the election, he disappeared and went to his village. He left the leadership of Wadata Plaza open and that was what gave room for Wike to move in.
“In 2019 when Atiku got the ticket, he didn’t do anything to fund the party. He didn’t set up proper structures. He was only getting the party’s ticket based on personal recognition and the figures in election. But when Peter Obi of the LP and Tinubu contested with Atiku, it was difficult for him.”
Pearse said it was true that PDP is in crisis in some areas like in Imo State but that it isn’t a general issue. “The party is just weak in Lagos but we are settling down now. Things are not as bad as it used to be and do not forget that in all, PDP still has 13 governors. The issue is that Tinubu is a very smart person and he has been doing so much such that it would be difficult to take the presidency away from him. What the PDP can do is to go extra miles and this depends on the National Publicity Secretary.”
Pearse added that PDP now has an acting national chairman and the NWC is meeting regularly. “Recently, the governors on PDP platform came together to begin the meeting of PDP’s Governors Forum. The party is coming together. The challenge is that Tinubu is moving too fast and that’s why it looks as if PDP is doing nothing.”
Sharing a similar position with Pearse, the National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologun-Agba, said the party is not in a very serious crisis as the ruling party and some elements are painting it. He also said the party has a very good case at the tribunal and that Atiku is still very hopeful of regaining the mandate.
He noted that it is always part of politics that any party in power would want to break the ranks of the opposition but PDP is not unmindful of this. “The onus is on us to stand up to the challenge and we are already putting every measure in place to ensure genuine reconciliation, especially considering the aftermath of the last general elections.”
The gubernatorial candidate of Lagos PDP in 2015 and 2019, Mr. Jimi Agbaje, said it is not new that the ruling party will do every possible thing to suppress opposition parties.
Agbaje said it is too early to start saying PDP is in a state of perpetual crisis. “The outcome of the election petition tribunal may change the dynamics,” he added.
Chief Olabode George, on his part, said, “We warned our national headquarters of the danger inherent in their decision to corner everything to a section of the country as if only the north can win election but they rebuffed us.
“We also told them that a whole Southwest region cannot be totally cut off while there was little or nothing done to pacify the Southeast, the only zone yet to produce the president. Nobody listened to us. Peter Obi left to pick a Labour Party ticket with massive followers.
“If the trend continues and the party fails to have a genuine reconciliation, the fear may be good as genuine that opposition parties voice may go under in the next couple of years.”
However, the former military administrator of Ondo State also said the outcome of the ongoing Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, if it is eventually favourable to the PDP, may change the narrative.
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